The 25 Best Turbografx-16 Games…Ever!

evolveteam August 29, 2014 1
Best Turbgrapfx 16 games
Words by Anthony Barbetta, Jager Robinson, Ryan Scott, and Alex Bracetti

Back in 1989, the first official 16-bit console hit the US, which was billed as an elite gaming console that made the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis look inferior. That system was the TurboGrafx-16—a machine that proved to be ahead of its time, but failed to make any impact on consumer market. While establishing a huge fan base out in Japan, it also garnered a hardcore following across the globe thanks impart to its phenomenal graphics, stellar sound, and superb arcade ports. Had it not been for the lack of third-party support, missing second controller port, and ridiculous launch price: Who knows how the video game wars would have played out heading into the ‘90s. The gaming community has its theories. We’re not here to discuss them. Instead, Evolve’s paying homage to one of the most overlooked and underrated consoles ever by ranking the 25 Best TurboGrafx-16 Games…Ever. Indulge in the nostalgia fanboys!

25. Gates of Thunder

Developer/Publisher: Red Entertainment/Hudson Soft
Year: 1992
This high-octane space shooter proved to be a showstopper in many ways. It was action-packed from the moment you powered the system on, hurling enemies everywhere with heavy gunfire flooding the entire screen—all in the name of serving justice in space. The player takes control of Hawk, a space cop who flies the ‘Hunting Dog’ to prevent the evil Don Jingi from obtaining the extremely powerful energy source called ‘Starlight’. The controls were pretty standard for a shoot ‘em up, but the pure aesthetics are what made Gates of Thunder glorious. Detailed ships, various weapons, and vivid explosions added to the adventure. —Barbetta

24. Bloody Wolf

Developer/Publisher: Data East/NEC
Year: 1990
Another Mercs clone of sorts, the side-scrolling shooter placed gamers in the combat boots of two soldiers of fortune who shoot and stab their way through an enemy’s weapon base to rescue the President. Yea, it had cheesy action film plot written all over it, though it was in the intense action play and hilariously translated dialogue where the game excelled. Sadly, the TG16 version was limited to a one-player campaign, though it offered the option of choosing between the two commandos, along with an extra level and full-length soundtrack. It was no Commando or Contra, but it sufficed. —Bracetti

23. Magical Chase

Developer/Publisher: Palsoft/Quest
Year: 1993
Described best as a “cute ‘em up,” the scrolling shooter played close to other titles in its genre such as Gradius, only bringing more fantasy and magic to the table. Players controlled a witch riding a broomstick, alongside two anthropomorphic stars in an attempt to capture the six demons she released from her teacher’s magic book, hoping to avoid the faith of turning into a frog for breaking her promise. Responsive controls and strategy requirements for each level balanced the gameplay, not making it too easy or difficult for us, while keeping us entertained through its bright graphics and fun battles. —Bracetti

22. Keith Courage in Alpha Zones

Developer/Publisher: Advance Communications
Year: 1989
Based on the ponderously titled anime Spirit Hero Wataru, this equally awkwardly named game has the distinction of being the original pack-in game included with the console when it first released in America. This was no accident, as the title’s graphics were a huge step up from its NES and Genesis competitors at the time, allowing new Turbografx players to witness the system’s graphical potential right off the bat. The gameplay itself splits each of the seven levels into two sections: the first part of each level has players navigate Keith through a standard platforming world. However, things get significantly more interesting in the second part of each stage, when Keith is taken to the underworld, where he dons a mech-suit and fights other robots. —Scott

21. Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition

Developer/Publisher: Capcom
Year: 1992
This update to the ever popular and critically acclaimed Street Fighter II welcomed many interesting and game-changing elements to the already popular fighting game. While most of the game’s general controls and gameplay remained intact, the new additions made the game feel more complete. One such being the ability to play as any of the four final bosses from the single-player mode (Balrog, M. Bison, Sagat and Vega), all toned down for more fair play. The game was also the first in the franchise to allow Mirror Matches, letting both players select the same character just with different colored outfits. Adding in some rebalancing and slight move set changes to the characters, it was the elite fighting game on the console. —Barbetta

20. Air Zonk

Developer/Publisher: Red Company/Hudson Soft
Year: 1992
Red Company’s attempt at creating a more modern game in the Zonk series was surprisingly good to say the least. Air Zonk’s overall aesthetics could be called lighthearted with its bright colorful characters, plus strange bosses such as a living garbage pile or a living boat. At the beginning of each level the player must choose a companion character to use along with the main hero, in the goal to shoot and bomb every enemy in the level. The game also contains many different power-ups and moves that Zonk can access through the various levels by fusing with the friend characters. With its overall presentation, simplistic gameplay, and unique level layouts, Zonk’s space odyssey definitely stood out amongst the crowd and made a profound impact on the system. —Barbetta

19. Gomola Speed

Developer/Publisher: UPL
Year: 1990
A rather obscure game for its time, Gomola Speed was definitely something in a league of its own, using the idea from a ‘snake’ game—meaning you control something to move around an area collecting objects to make the snake longer. However instead of trying to not touch the other end of the body, the goal is to collect all the segments of the body in the level then wrap it around all the ‘food’ in the area, which will then open an exit to progress. Between the unique concept change and rather catchy music, this puzzler was a change of pace from the other titles featured on the system at the time. —Barbetta

18. Dungeon Explorer 2

Developer/Publisher: Atlus/Hudson Soft
Year: 1989
A developer known most for its underrated RPGs, Atlus achieved critical acclaim with its Dungeon Crawler series, as the sequel turned into one of the console’s more popular selections. It allowed players to act in the roles of a fighter, thief, mage, and other such standard RPG classes, along with some special ones offering their own unique abilities. Accessing up to five differing players to control five different characters and share the life totals created a rather fun co-op experience. —Barbetta

17. Lords of Thunder

Developer/Publisher: Red Entertainment/Hudson Soft
Year: 1993
Talk about an instant classic that’s been ranked on most best space shooter lists for good reasons. Gamers enjoyed everything from the open-ended gameplay to the variety of abilities and weapons afforded to them. Using an open-map selection system and a completely open shop, Lords of Thunder let us choose whatever we wanted to level up and advance through levels with ease. Whether it was extra health or extra damage, many gamers took different routes to complete this 16-bit masterpiece. —Robinson

16. R-Type

Developer/Publisher: Irem
Year: 1989
Considered one of the OGs of the genre, R-Type lived up to its hype and more when launched on numerous consoles back in the ‘80s. Though its TG16 port was constantly overlooked due to the console’s unpopularity. Shame too since it was the best-looking version ever released. The insane difficulty was what gave this game its infamous status with players. However, the level designs also gave it an edge above other shooters. It’s designed to have a ‘correct’ way of going through the levels and never once did the player feel like it was due to weapons, but rather their own skills, making them strive to be better. —Barbetta

15. Dragon’s Curse

Developer/Publisher: Westone
Year: 1991
This seemingly straightforward side-scrolling RPG has one of the strangest development histories of any video game in history. The game that would eventually be released on the Turbografx-16 as Dragon’s Curse was actually originally a 1989 Sega Master System game called Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. However, when other companies ported the game to different systems, the original developer Westone forced the ports to remove all references to the Wonder Boy series, resulting in each port being more-or-less identical in terms of gameplay, but completely separate in terms of narrative. Odd history aside, the game is an excellent action RPG that wisely adds in some Metroidvania-style elements. For example, gameplay is nonlinear, allowing the player to explore the virtual world in any order they choose as they track down dragons. —Scott

14. Bomberman ‘93

Developer/Publisher: 1990
Year: Hudson Soft
An expanded remake of the original game in the Bomberman series (which was originally released on the NES), the Turbografx-16 version was light years ahead of its ‘80s predecessor—featuring vastly superior graphics and sound that showed just how far ahead the system’s technical capabilities were compared to the previous generation of consoles. However, this version is more than just a footnote in the history of the franchise, as later games would build off the visual style and level design of this iteration, making it a seminal piece of Bomberman’s history. Also of note is the fact that the Turbografx Bomberman is the first to allow five-person multiplayer, demonstrating the increasing importance that multiplayer was to play in the series’ development. —Scott

13. Super Star Soldier

Developer/Publisher: Kaneko/Hudson Soft
Year: 1991
Super Star Solider was pretty much an overlooked shooter, that like most IPs in its genre, garnered a stronger following after the console’s death. Those lucky enough to experience the shmup enjoyed the fast-paced space warfare that ensued upon advancing through each level, banking on the ridiculous weapons upgrade system to progress. Energy rings, flamethrowers, lightening, missiles, and a spreader that hurled bullets—it was the least the developers could give gamers when facing against giant robot scorpions, ice monsters, and lava snakes. Surprisingly, the game still holds up well against some of the more modern shooters out. —Bracetti

12. Military Madness

Developer/Publisher: Hudson Soft
Year: 1990
Earning awards for “Best War Game” and “Best Strategy Game”, Military Madness didn’t really make a mark on the console, but boy was it fun. This sci-fi RTS featured some unique gameplay like the ability to capture enemy units and repair your units by sending them back to factories. These elements, alongside the unique location of the moon, provided great amounts of fun for those who delved in it. During a battle, the camera would change to a fun close-up view of the battle, which showed the two armies fighting it out in a uncontrollable scenario. Though this feature often produced less than satisfactory results, it still was cool to see the game change up the way most people play real-time strategies. Military Madness was later re-released on the Virtual Console and remains a loving edition to the TG16, even if no one bought it. —Robinson

11. Legendary Axe

Developer/Publisher: Victor Interactive Studios/NEC
Year: 1989
Probably the most well known of the machine’s launch titles, The Legendary Axe featured the wonderfully colored caveman, Gogan, rescuing his cavegirl, Flare. What made it such a fan-favorite was…well… the legendary axe Gogan used. Given to him by the tribal elders, Gogan wielded the weapon that could be charged to defeat the final boss, Jagu. The longer one waited to strike with it, the more powerful it became. While the beginning of the game was standard hack ‘n’ slash stuff, the ending levels required more strategic moves as you faced harder foes. As many fans of the franchise might remember, the enemies in The Legendary Axe required a lot of memorization as each had their own special move(s) that required a different way of defeat. This much level in detail and overall enjoyment only thirsted the game into TG16 lore. —Robinson

10. Y’s Book 1 & 2

Developer/Publisher: Alfa Systems
Year: 1990
The two games in this compilation may at first glance seem to be just Zelda-like RPGs. However, the Ys series brings some simple, but groundbreaking twists to the basic gameplay formula. The titles take the most fundamental rules of game combat and completely turns them on their head. In this compilation, players damage their enemies not by attacking with swords or guns, but by ramming the protagonist into his enemies. There is no attack button, you don’t equip weapons; you just tilt the D-pad to ram a character into the bad guys. This may sound simple, but since almost every other game in history has conditioned gamers to try desperately to avoid touching the enemy sprites, this seemingly minor twist gives the Ys games a startling and welcoming freshness. —Scott

9. Strider

Developer/Publisher: Capcom/NEC
Year: 1989
One of Capcom’s early arcade hits, Strider tells the story of Strider Hiryu, a young ninja fighting against a dystopian dictator. He’s also currently best known for his appearances in the Marvel vs. Capcom games. The Turbografx-16 port unfortunately was only released in Japan, a sad move as it was the most faithful to the arcade original—showcasing the system’s technical prowess on the graphics and sound front—putting all other home console ports to shame. The developers even went so far as to completely re-record the dialogue and add in additional cut-scenes. And whereas the other versions were cutting levels, the Turbografx installment added in a new desert stage exclusive to the console. —Scott

8. Neutopia 2

Developer/Publisher: Hudson Soft
Year: 1992
The action-adventure title was criticized most for being nothing more than a Zelda clone. To that, we say what games in the genre during this era weren’t? Exactly. Despite the hate, Neutopia II had been praised as a solid TG16 game that showcased sharp controls, sound, and visuals. Hudson Soft also went on to improve the gameplay by integrating diagonal movements that allowed the player to navigate in eight different directions, while enhancing the overall plot progression to bring the entire story together. —Bracetti

7. Ninja Spirit

Developer/Publisher: Irem/NEC
Year: 1988
The first game to receive a perfect score in EGM, the action platformer was a near-perfect replica of its arcade counterpart from the graphics to the soundtrack. Ninja Spirit managed to standout from the likes of Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi thanks impart to its enhanced gameplay, which featured several weapons (bombs, chain and sickle, katana, shuriken) that required mastering in other to get past the game’s limitless baddies and traps. The ability to unleash multiple ninja ghosts via powerup was also a dope addition that came in handy most times. To know its greatness is to have played it. —Bracetti

6. Blazing Lazers

Developer/Publisher: Hudson Soft
Year: 1989
Widely regarded as one of the best shoot-’em-ups ever made, Blazing Lazers puts the player in control of the Gunhed Advanced Star Fighter as it goes into combat against an alien invasion. The game is nominally based of the 1989 Japanese sci-fi film Gunhed, but beyond the name of the player’s starfighter, there are few similarities between the game and its supposed source material. But that’s okay because Blazing Lazers more than stands on its own two feet. The graphics are stunning, especially when considering how early the title launched in the Turbografx’s life cycle. One of the game’s best features is the vast variety of weapons at your disposal; though you can only have one weapon type equipped at a time, choosing between bullets, waves, lasers, and rings, all of which can be repeatedly upgraded. —Scott

5. Bonk’s Revenge

Developer/Publisher: Red Company/Hudson Soft
Year: 1991
Whether headbutting walls or swimming up waterfalls, Bonk’s Revenge provided a nice charm of relief to the formulaic platformers of the time. This 2D platformer took the Turbografx mascot on a quest to take back half of the moon! With impressive sound effects and fun changing backgrounds, the game actually was an innovative platformer in an era of monotony. Many don’t remember the overall lackluster predecessor, Bonk’s Adventure, but really the disappointment of that game lead to this installment being a success. While Red Company learned from the mistakes of the first one, Revenge became much more of an in-depth title. They expanded the game, made the enemies harder, and even added unique paths that could be backtracked to reach a new location. There were some unique features like being able to swing up obstacles and climb walls when appropriate as well. These additions allowed the game to receive a loving fan base and lead to its re-release on the Virtual Console. —Robinson

4. Snatcher

Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 1988
Created by the brilliant Hideo Kojima, Snatcher is a text-based cyberpunk adventure game that no one’s every heard of for the most part. Kojima put a lot of work into writing and directing the game and it showed in the gorgeous presentation. Following the story of Gillian Seed, you must go out and catch the Snatchers, cybernetic beings who kill and steal the appearance of humans. Very much in the style of movies like Blade Runner and Terminator, Snatcher uses fun gameplay features such as being able to smell and search people, often more than once. It also featured a variety of references to Kojima’s other games including a robot sidekick named Metal Gear. With a unique soundtrack and other fun gameplay mechanics, Snatcher had Kojima written all over it, and that wasn’t a bad thing at all. —Robinson

3. Splatterhouse

Developer/Publisher: Namco
Year: 1990
Namco pretty much wrote the book on video game gore when it released this beat ‘em up slasher. Don’t believe it? “The horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children…and cowards,” read the parental advisory warning on the game box. Following a parapsychology student named Rick who is trapped inside a mansion, the soon-to-be psycho-slasher is resurrected by an enchanted mask and must fight through hordes of monsters to save his girlfriend. Another solid arcade port to bless the TG16, Splatterhouse was most remembered for pushing the envelope on gaming violence, though its intense scare factor and wild boss battles are what also attributed to its mass appeal on the arcade scene. Luckily for us, the developers did an amazing job of porting it over to the home console front. —Bracetti

2. Devil’s Crush

Developer/Publisher: Compile/NEC
Year: 1990
Spawned from the successful predecessor, Alien Crush, this follow-up became much more of a cult favorite. While Alien Crush featured wonderful sounds and moments from Ridley Scott’s Alien films, Devil’s Crush was much more elaborate and entertaining. With a large pinball board and unique paddle locations, it was certainly the most fun players could have playing pinball at home. One of its more appealing facets was the unique “boss battles,” which featured players trying to hit monsters and dragons until the ball fell back onto the main table. Whether it was destroying the minions who walked through the first two levels of the board or trying to complete the single challenges during the “bonus rounds,” Devil’s Crush was entertaining from all angles. —Robinson

1. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 1993
Before Symphony of the Night, this was considered the crème de la crème of Castlevania games. The Japanese exclusive served as a prequel to the PSX classic, telling the story of Richter Belmont as he chases down Dracula to save his love Annette. Konami went on to introduce anime cutscenes and a remarkable soundtrack, both of which surprisingly played the background to the game’s amazing character design, brutal difficulty, and traditional gameplay controls. Most critics agree that Rondo of Blood isn’t just only the best Castlevania game nobody’s ever played, but the TG16’s greatest achievement as well. —Bracetti

  • Zephyrnix

    Good job on this list. And you didn’t take the easy way out by using multiple games in the game franchise (Bonk 1, Bonk 2, Bonk 3, Super Air Zone etc). Personally, I would have put Final Lap Twin in this piece, but this is still good.